The hardest question for US corporations to answer: When should offices reopen?
From Silicon Valley to Tennessee to Pennsylvania, high hopes that a swift launch of the vaccine in early 2021 would send millions of workers to offices in the spring have been dashed. Many companies are pushing back-to-work dates forward to September and beyond, or are refusing to commit to specific dates, telling employees that it will be a long-term wait-and-see year of remote work.
The delays span industries. Qurate Retail Inc., the parent company of brands like Ballard Designs, QVC and HSN, recently shifted its planned May return to offices in the Philadelphia, Atlanta and other cities through September at the earliest. TechnologyAdvice, a marketing firm in Nashville, initially told employees to plan for February 1 as their return date. The company then pushed the date back to August. Now, TA has decided that it will start a hybrid office schedule in fall 2021, allowing workers to choose whether to work remotely or log in, the company says.
Return-to-office dates have changed so much in the last year that some companies don’t share them with employees. Atlanta-based shipping giant United Parcel Service Inc. and Boston-based financial services firm Fidelity Investments Inc. have not announced return dates, instead telling workers they are signing up since home that companies are monitoring the coronavirus pandemic and will. call workers when it is safe.
Nearly a year of impromptu work at home has weighed on employees, leaders say. While many companies say productivity has increased, executives worry creativity is suffering and say burnout is on the rise. Still, bosses struggle to say when things will change.